How the Flu Affects Your Lungs


The flu virus, or influenza, is often considered a respiratory illness. That means it infects your throat, your nose, and sinuses, and can also infect your lungs. Some people are more vulnerable to complications that can affect their lungs, making the flu virus very dangerous.

What are some common symptoms?

The flu typically hits you quickly, and hard. You may feel sudden fatigue, get chills, and have overall body aches. Chances are you will want to rest in bed.

Some common symptoms of the flu include:

·       Fatigue, or feeling very tired

·       Having chills, feeling cold, and sometimes shaky

·       Feeling achy

·       Cough and runny nose

·       Sore throat

·       Headache

·       Some people also get a fever, with temperatures above 99 degrees

Most people get better within a week or two, but for some, infections that develop in the lungs can cause extensive problems.

How can the flu cause lung complications?

The flu is a virus that infects your upper respiratory tract (throat, sinuses) and it can also infect your lower respiratory tract (lungs). When the virus infects your lungs, your body tries to fight the infection. But, if the infection is hard to clear up you may develop viral pneumonia. And this may progress to a secondary bacterial infection of your lungs, or bacterial pneumonia.

Who is most likely to develop lung complications?

The flu is more likely to cause complications in people who have existing health conditions, and in certain age groups.

·       Anyone 65 years of age or older

·       Young children under the age of 5

·       Pregnant women

·       People with asthma

·       People with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis

·       Anyone with a weakened immune system. This can be caused by diseases such as cancer, or by medications such as corticosteroids

·       Anyone with a chronic disease, including kidney and liver disease

How do I know if I have lung complications from the flu?

Viral or bacterial pneumonia may or may not cause symptoms that are easy for you to detect. In general, if you have a fever you should call your doctor.

If you don’t start to feel better a week after you first get the flu, or if you suddenly start feeling worse after you began to recover, you should contact your doctor right away.

Can lung complications affect my entire body?

Yes. Your lungs are a vital part of your body system. And, uncontrolled infections can spread to other vital parts of your body, even your heart. Uncontrolled infections can result in muscle tissue breakdown, and kidney and liver failure. The lungs are responsible for oxygenating your blood and sending it back to your heart, providing a vital part of living.

When your lungs cannot function properly, or become overwhelmed by infection and inflammation, your body may have an extreme response to the infection. This can cause a life-threatening situation called sepsis.

What can I do?

Get a flu shot every year. Getting immunized helps protect you from getting the flu, and it reduces the severity of symptoms if you do end up getting the flu.

See your doctor if you are in a high-risk group for complications from the flu. Keeping yourself in the best health is a good way to avoid lung problems if you contract the flu.

The providers at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Crystal Lake and South Barrington, Illinois welcome you. Specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of pulmonary and sleep disorders, we offer personalized care with a focus on achieving optimum patient outcomes.

We invite you to get to know the dedicated providers who care for our patients in our office, in the hospital, and in nursing homes.

 If you have any questions about our pulmonary and sleep services, please call us at 8154777350. To schedule an appointment, you can call us or use our secure online appointment request form.

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